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Reviews for May 25th 2012

Arjun the Warrior Prince

Directed by Arnab Chaudhuri

      Arjun (voice of Yudhveer Bakoliya) trains to be warrior, and soon he and his five brothers establish a kingdom of their own in India. Shakuni (voice of Vijay Kashyap) and his nephew, Duryodhan, play a dice game with Arjun, but after Arjun loses the game, he's forced to give his kingdom over to them, while he and his brothers are banished into exile for 12 years. It's now Arjun's mission to win back the kingdom by defeating Duryodhan and his army.

      An epic adventure that should please both adults and children, Arjun the Warrior Prince has plenty of exciting action scenes and dazzling animation that combines hand-drawn animation with CGI. At first the combo of the two animation styles feels a bit strange, but you'll eventually get used to it. The story, inspired by The Mahabharata, is told in a very simple, easy-to-follow way which makes sense because it's told via flashback as a nurse tells the Arjun story to a young prince who aspires to become a warrior.

      Director Arnab Chaudhuri moves the film at an appropriately brisk pace so that little kids will not find themselves bored--there's also a brief intermission. The battles scenes, while they're a little bloody at times, aren't particularly heavy-handed or distressing, so the film's sense of thrilling adventure always remains intact.

Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Opens at AMC/Loews Village 7.
Released by UTV Communications.

The Intouchables

Directed by Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache

      Philippe (François Cluzet), a tetraplegic millionaire, hires Driss (Omar Sy), a young man from the projects, as his caretaker. As they spend more time together, they learn more about each other and gradually become best friends in the truest sense of the word. Anne Le Ny and Audrey Fleurot play Philippe's additional assistants, Yvonne and Magalie.

      From the very first scene, The Intouchables sets its tone as a buddy comedy that offers many surprises along the way. Co-writers/directors Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano find just the right balance between comedy, drama and tragedy. Just when you think the drama will become melodramatic or heavy, along comes a gut-busting funny scene that will lift your spirits or an inspiring scene that reflects the importance of friendship and compassion between two human beings. Omar Sy and François Cluzet both have impeccable comedic timing and play off of each other quiet well. Their genuine friendship feels palpable from start to finish. Each of them gets his moment to shine both in terms of comedy and drama. None of the surprises or hilarious scenes will be spoiled here, though, but it's worth mentioning that The Intouchables avoids gross-out humor; it's a refreshingly high-brow kind of humor that's rarely found in modern comedies. Driss could have been any race or nationality, and it wouldn't have made much of a difference because the core of the film is how he and Philippe bond as human beings regardless of any superficialities. Sure, Philippe has a handicap and lots of money while Driss comes from a troubled childhood and struggles with poverty among other things which are, in a sense, his own handicap, but both of them learn how to break through their handicaps and to live life to the fullest, a task that's easier said than done.

      The Intouchables has so much heart and soul that only a cynic would be able to resist its charms, humor, and humanity. Myopic critics who claim the film has "unimaginative stereotypes" (Jon Frosch, The Atlantic) or that it's "offensive" (Jay Weissberg,Variety) and that "the premise of The Intouchables alone nearly renders analysis redundant."(Joseph Jon Lanthier, Slant Magazine) are being very unfair to the film because both Driss and Philippe are complex, flawed beings who have more to them than meets the eye. They're not stereotypes nor is there anything particularly offensive going on because even the irreverent humor isn't remotely mean-spirited; it's meant to keep you delighted, entertained and surprised.

      The Intouchables is the funniest comedy in years, and the most touching story of genuine friendship since The Shawshank Redemption.

Number of times I checked my watch: 0
Opens at the Paris Theatre and Angelika Film Center.
Released by The Weinstein Company.

Men in Black 3

Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld

      Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) have always been partners in the MIB Agency. After Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement), escapes from a prison on the moon, he travels to 1969 to kill 29-year-old Agent K (Josh Brolin), who had arrested him and shot off his arm back then. He also plans to destroy the world with his powers. It's now up to Agent J to travel back in time to kill Boris the Animal to save Agent K as well as the world. Michael Stuhlbarg, Emma Thompson and Bill Hader round out the cast as Griffin, Agent O and Andy Warhol, respectively.

      Summer blockbusters have mainly been just loud, long and action-packed (take Battleship, for example). So, it's very refreshing when a movie like Men in Black 3 comes along with an imaginative story that's at least somewhat grounded in human relationships. The time-travel aspect of the story is, luckily, not all that complicated to follow---of course, it requires a good amount of suspension of disbelief just like in any Sci-fi movie. Admittedly, MIB:3 doesn't fully kick into fully comedy gear until Agent J starts going back in time. The scenes prior to that fall flat in terms of comedy, i.e. a merely awkward one where Agent O talks in a very weird alien language during a eulogy. Screenwriter Etan Cohen, who's also responsible for penning the Tropic Thunder screenplay, offers a few laugh-out-loud zingers and hilarious situations which are mostly funny thanks to the comedic talents of the actors, especially Jemaine Clement and Will Smith who are both in top form here. The addition of the perfectly-cast Michael Stuhlbarg as an alien named Griffin is quite amusing to watch. It's quite amazing how, as the youngest version of Agent K, Josh Brolin does an impeccable job of imitating the older Agent K's body language, speech and even his looks. His performance along with that of Jermaine Clement is worth the price of admission alone, but, not surprisingly, there are plenty of thrills and impressive CGI effects to boot. MIB3 boasts the most effective use of 3D in recent memory which, together with its surprisingly smart, funny and, dare I say, tender screenplay, makes it the first great blockbuster of the summer movie season.

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Opens nationwide.
Released by Columbia Pictures.

Moonrise Kingdom

Directed by Wes Anderson


Number of times I checked my watch: 0
Opens at Regal Union Square and AMC/Loews Lincoln Square.
Released by Focus Features.

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